In case you haven't been paying close attention to the digital SLR market lately, there's been a shift toward CMOS sensors. Though Pentax has stuck with CCD for its entry-level dSLR, it has moved to a 14.6-megapixel CMOS chip in their new flagship K20D.
That puts it ahead of some more expensive models in terms of pixel count. Notably, Canon's sports a 10.1-megapixel sensor, Sony's Alpha includes a 12.2-megapixel chip, and even Nikon's pricier checks in at 12.3 megapixels. As we always say, megapixels aren't everything, so let's see what else Pentax's K20D has going on.
For the K20D's body only, you'll pay around £700. Adding an 18-55mm, f/3.5-5.6 lens will cost an extra £100.
The overall body design is essentially the same as the K10D's. In fact, they both use the same vertical grip. Pentax did upgrade the LCD to a 69mm (2.7-inch) screen from a 64mm (2.5-inch) display.
The only other change to the body design is the addition of a PC terminal, which lets you connect the camera to a studio strobe. We were surprised that the K10D didn't have one, so it's nice to see it here, though we're not sure how many people will really take advantage of it.
The similarity between the two bodies is a good thing. We always liked the K10D's design. It's on the small side compared with a lot of mid-level dSLRs, making it easier to carry with you. There are two wheels -- one near your thumb and one near your forefinger -- to adjust shutter speed and aperture in manual exposure mode. This is much more convenient than the single-shell-plus- button-press system employed by most entry-level dSLRs.
Pentax also includes plenty of switch and button controls for various functions, so you don't have to delve into the menus to change most of the functions you use while shooting. We came to really like the AF switch, which is on the left front of the body just behind the lens mount. It's a three-way switch with manual focus on the bottom and single-shot AF on top, which made it easy to change to manual focus when we wanted to override autofocus in favor of a more artistic, selective focus. A handful of controls are hidden in the function menu, but with the four-way rocker, these are still only a few button presses away.
Like its less expensive cousin, , the K20D includes weather sealing, though, as you'd expect, this camera's sealing is more intense. The K20D has 72 rubber seals in its little body to keep out moisture and dust. For example, if you open the battery compartment door, you'll notice the small O-ring around the rim of the door.
One of the niftier shooting modes Pentax includes is the Sensitivity-priority mode, which lets you select the ISO sensitivity you want while the camera selects the shutter speed and aperture you need based on your selection. This is useful if you know you have to raise the ISO to get a fast-enough shutter speed to freeze a subject that's in motion, but want to keep the ISO as low as possible. Even if you have the Fn menu set to select ISO in full stop increments, Sensitivity-priority mode offers 1/3-stop increments, so you can quickly get a finer sensitivity scale if needed.
Keeping up with the dSLR trends for this year, the K20D has an Enhanced Dynamic Range mode, which tweaks the tone curve to eke out some extra detail in the highlights of an image. It's a subtle effect, but it does work. The K20D's version is more subtle than Canon's Highlight Tone Priority -- at least the version we saw in the -- though that camera is an unfair comparison, to say the least.
Olympus also offers a similar type of feature that it calls Shadow Adjustment Technology, though it groups it with metering modes, while Pentax puts it in the ISO section of the Fn menu. Sony's Dynamic Range Optimiser and Nikon's D-Lighting also work to get more detail in the darkest and the brightest portions of images, though they function more as software-type adjustments made to images after capture, rather than during capture.